Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday Q&A - Making Better Selections With Adobe Photoshop

I've seen a lot of frustration with friends and readers trying to make selections using Adobe Photoshop CS5's Content Aware Fill.  Today's image shows three versions of the same image.  It's not on the blog because it's some wonderful image.  It's here as a "teaching tool".  It's the same shot, duplicated twice and spread out across a canvas.  The first (left) shows the "as shot" image.  The middle version show a typical Content Aware Fill  result, trying to take out the middle "R" and the number "7".  The third (right) shows a better result using a modified version of Content Aware Fill.  Why someone would want to remove the "R" and the "7"?  I have no idea, I'm just trying to illustrate a point.  I didn't come up with the secret method of making a better fill.  I saw it in a video from Adobe.  I've been using it, tweaking the way I work with it, and have developed a strong confidence in being able to extract exactly what I want.  To find out what the trick is, hit the "Read More".
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Monday, October 24, 2011

Playing With Adobe Pixel Bender

Actually, playing with Adobe's Pixel Bender is the last step in today's image.  It went through several trips back and forth from Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 to Adobe Photoshop CS5.  There are things I find easier in CS5 and other things easier in LR3.  As an example, the face of the barn was "texturized" in LR3, but the "brightness" of the red leaves was goosed in CS5.  The sky couldn't be (at least I couldn't) handled properly in CS5, so it was treated in LR3.  The end image wound up being TJP8764-Edit-2-Edit-Edit.psd.  That gives you a little idea of what when on in beating up this poor image.  Not only that, but it started life as a five stop HDR.  The biggest "trick" as far as I'm concerned was getting the texture of the face of the barn to come out.  To give the barn a nice weathered appearance the Clarity was brought up using the Adjustment Brush... five times.  The Adjustment Brush was selected with the Exposure brought down the maximum of 4 stops.  I find that to be an easy way to directly see where I'm selecting.  After the barn face was properly selected I double clicked on the word Exposure to reset the value back to zero.  I then put the Clarity up to 100%.  I did the same thing, placing four more pins.  "Paint" the face, return the Exposure to zero and crank the Clarity up.  After the fifth time the barn face had the texture I was looking for.  This same technique can be used to apply a "grunge" effect.  Thanks to Matt Kloskowski of NAPP for demonstrating that trick.  Where to apply it is up to you.  I picked this image to play with it.  I don't think it went all the way to "grunge", but it did supply something.  There's a half dozen (or so) other tricks that were applied to today's image.  To find out what they are, hit the "Read More".
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Friday, October 21, 2011

Use Adobe Photoshop's Lens Correction

There's always something new to play with in either Adobe Photoshop CS5 or Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3.  I use to obsess about barrel distortion when taking wide angle shots at fairly close range.  Such was the case with today's image.  I almost looked like the window was semicircular in a vertical dimension.  We were up in Bar Harbor Maine over the past weekend and wandering around Main Street after dinner.  Bar Harbor is just a great little town for hanging out and window shopping.  Everywhere we looked there were neat little shops and neat little vignettes that would make interesting images.  Today's image is a good example of how either Photoshop CS5's ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) or Lightroom 3 can make a problem into a one click solution.  In either case, Adobe has a routine for Len Correction.  In LR3 it a panel available in the Develop Module.  In ACR it's on the all encompassing screen and looks like a lens group.  It's the sixth icon in on the set of icons just under the Histogram (just to the left of the FX icon).  Adobe maintains a large database of lenses from most of the major manufacturers.  There are two options, Manual and Profile.  Manual is just as it sounds.  You make any adjustments you feel are necessary.  There's another tab called Profile.  The camera manufacturer, the specific lens and Adobe's Profile for that combination is picked up from the EXIF data that accompanies each image.  Clicking on Enable Profile Corrections instantly "corrects" any distortion in the lens.  The straight lines in the window are the result of Adobe's lens correction.  The only thing done to the image (as far as any straightening goes) is to correct the tilt of the camera.  The entire image "leaned" to the left.  There is other processing that went into making today's image what it is.  To find out what was done after the Lens Correction, hit the "Read More".
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wednesday Photoshop Q&A - What Happened To The Fall Colors

Luckily, the fall foliage season seems to be a little delayed in the southern Northeast USA.  Such was not the case in Bar Harbor Maine and Acadia National Park last week.  We arrived on a rainy Friday afternoon just in time to take a bus tour of the Park.  At one point I asked the driver/tour guide if this was a "trust tour".  He asked what I meant.  I told him every time we got to what was supposed to be a great view it was almost as if he'd say "trust me, there's a great view to the left or to the right".  The fog or low lying clouds were so dense that none of the views were visible.  What we did see, close to the road, was impressive and the promise of good photo ops once the fog had lifted was high.  The fog and rain didn't lift until overnight and a bright sunrise was the reward.  Unfortunately, so were some high winds.  As much as 60 MPH in gushes all day long.  The great color we did see on Friday was pretty much blown away on Saturday.  Some remained, but it involved a lot more hunting than it did in the rain on Friday.  Saturday night, after dark, I wanted to go up the summit road to Cadillac Mountain.  We stopped at one of the overlooks, I grabbed the tripod and started setting up for a night shot.  The moon was slightly to the right, Bar Harbor to the left, and a beautiful seascape filling in in between.  After almost being blown off the side of the mountain I thought better of trying for that shot that night.  We finally started getting some good shots on Sunday.  Today's image comes from the road going from Trenton down to Bar Harbor.  We spotted two photographers shooting on our way off the island and stopped to try our luck on the way back.  To learn the story of today's image and the processing involved, hit the "Read More".
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Friday, October 14, 2011

Wille Wonke Meets Photoshop HDR Pro

I don't know.  Seems like we're doing a couple mashups this week.  Monday was "Norman Rockwell Meets Photoshop" and that was a pretty straight looking HDR composition.  Today we go to the other end of the scale with a fictional character meeting the far side of HDR.  Today's image actually comes from the Scott Kelby World Wide Photowalk of a couple of weekends past.  It's just down the street from last week's image from the walk and miles away as far as technique goes.  Here's a little comparison of the two images:

·         Both are five shot HDRs

·         Both are in the small New England town of Kent Connecticut

·         Both are on the west side of Main Street

·         One tends toward the photorealistic, the other is more illustrative

·         One is a straight shot (for something that's HDR).  The other has large sections cloned out using Content Aware Fill

·         One tries for true (almost) colors.  The other kicks the sh** out of the colors.

If you'd like to see what was done to the photorealistic image from last week, click here.  To see what was done to today's image, hot the "Read More".
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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wednesday Photoshop Q&A - Why Use Lightroom If You Have Bridge?

Wow!  I get asked today's question every time I teach a class, do a program for a camera club or have discussions with people interested in getting recommendations about which programs to use.  The reason I've qualified the question to only Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (3) versus Adobe Bridge CS5 is because of the database functions.  The Develop Module in LR3 and Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) are the same thing.  So, if you're interested in the Develop Module and already have either Photoshop or Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 (or now PSE 10), you have the Develop Module  of LR3.  They're the same program.  The interface is slightly different, but layout does make the program.  The ability to do things is the issue.  So, my recommendation is always to stay with what you have if the Develop Module is the only draw for going to LR3.

The database portion of LR3 is far superior to the current versions of Bridge.  One demo I do when giving a presentation is to make a Smart Collection using Bridge.  I push the keystroke to get it started and then open LR3.  In LR3 I make the exact same Smart Collection.  I press the key to get it going and almost instantly the Smart Collection pops up.  I then switch back to Bridge, and it's still plugging away trying to build the Smart Collection.  The speed at which you can find images is a huge plus in favor of LR3. 

The general layout of LR3 is another plus.  Where Bridge has everything hidden in menu after menu, LR3 has everything needed for the Library organized into panels.  Start from the top and work your way down through each panel and you're done.  Nothing has to be searched for.  It's all right in front of you.

Keywording, ranking, rating, collecting images are very straight forward.  If you want to keep track of your images, grab a copy of Lightroom.  If you're interested in the Develop Module and have either CS5 or PSE9, stick with what you have.
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Monday, October 10, 2011

Norman Rockwell Meets Photoshop

A while back I mused that it would be interesting to do some Norman Rockwell-ish shots.  Today's image becomes the first in what, I hope, will be a series of either re-creations or homage type shots based on Rockwell's work.  One of the notable things about the way Rockwell worked was his use of photography to get fragments of ideas as a photo to incorporate into his paintings.  He'd hire neighbors as the "actors", a professional photographer to do the shoot and borrow locations in the Stockbridge, Massachusetts area as sets.  Rockwell immortalized many of the townsfolk and descendents today point with pride at Saturday Evening Post covers and say 'that's my" whoever.  Grandmother, uncle, brother, sister or more.  I don't know the fellow in today's image and he never knew I was taking a shot of him.  There's more to what Adobe Photoshop CS5 had to do with the image than meets the eye.   To find out what was done in CS5, hit the "Read More".

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Some Thoughts On Steve Jobs

Just so you don't get confused, I've always been a big admirer of Steve Jobs.

It was sad to hear of the death of Steve Jobs.  He's been influential in our lives if you acknowledge it or not.  There have been Apple zealots who have fallen all over the words Steve spoke.  There has been the other side of the fence, where some either thought of him as a maverick or a Don Quixote, tilting at windmills when Microsoft was, seemingly, in control of the future of computing.  Even if you were a Jobs hater, if you look at what you have today, even if you're a PC person versus a Mac person, you owe Jobs a thank you.  My thoughts are in the "Read More".
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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wednesday Photoshop Q&A - Scott Kelby's "Light it, Shoot It, Retouch It" Book

If you're a frequent reader, you probably remember that I just did a semi-review of Matt Kloskowski's compositing book a couple weeks ago.  Well, as soon as it was available I ordered Scott Kelby's latest book, "Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It".  It's been sort of busy around here, so I've only gotten through a few chapters, but enough to know the I'll be going through the rest of the exercises as quickly as possible.  If for no other reason, to get a chuckle from his sense of humor.  Naturally, if I was interested in a humor book, I'd buy a humorist's book.  The basic function of Kelby's book is to teach a little something about lighting, shooting and retouching.  (Can't imagine where he would have come up with the book's name.)  The first comment I'd have is that it's a well conceived book.  It teaches about lighting in a manner I haven't seen in other books.  One of the things that intrigued  me was the promos Kelby Media put out about using actual overhead photographs to show the setups rather than sketches.  Kelby credits his assistant Brad Moore for coming up with the idea and it works very well.  One thing I will have to say is that I don't have the range of lights Scott has at his disposal, so I've had to think through the setups using my gear to try to replicate what he was doing.  Which is fine and he acknowledges the fact that everyone doesn't have the same gear he's got.  I have a fairly good range of small strobes, ranging from Nikon SBs to Sunpack FP38 Flat Panels to miscellaneous small poppers.  I do have all sorts of modifiers.  Anything from umbrellas to softboxes to light spheres to a homemade beauty dish.  So, I can move the light (not just the lights) around.  I have a range of scrims, flags, diffusers, stands, reflectors, and other gear, so I'm not nailing things to the walls.  I am pretty flexible in my positioning and pushing of the photons.  All that said, to see some of the compromises I've had to make to use my gear with Scott's instructions, hit the "Read More".
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Monday, October 3, 2011

To HDR Or Not To HDR, That Is The Question

Over the weekend we took part in Scott Kelby's World Wide Photo Walk.  Ours was set up for Sunday and at quarter to seven my wife called down and said "it's raining, are we still going?".  I had just checked for Kent, Connecticut and saw that the rain would clear by 9:00 AM and we should have a nice day for a photo walk.  I called back and said we'd be fine and we'll still go.  Today's image gives an idea of what the result was at about 9:45.  A beautiful New England fall day.  Blue skies with puffy white clouds and just enough sun to produce some good shots.  It's not really hard to find good shots walking through the small town of Kent.  The total length of the walk was probably less than a half mile.  One quarter mile down Main Street and one quarter coming back, exploring the alleys and back yards (of businesses).  There's an art studio back there with sculptures in the yard, a highly decorated little outside mall with all sorts kitschy knickknacks, bric-a-brac, and the like.  Just a real fun place to get some of those small, detail shots that go well in a storytelling photo essay.  I spent most of the morning with the camera set to shoot five shot brackets in the high speed continuous shooting mode.  That way I could either select the exposure I liked best or go for a three or five shot HDR.  With at least one of the shots, the 2 Stop underexposed image is the one I like best of the five shots in the group.  It's dark and brooding, with great shadows and an old fashioned white outside lamp shade as the focal point.  You may see it here in the gallery later this week.  Today's image comes from the same technique.  Shoot a five shot bracket and either pick the best exposure or use three or five of the images to produce an HDR image.  Watta ya think?  Is it one shot, brought to its full potential?  Is it a three shot HDR?  Or, is it a five shot HDR?  Do your best analysis and make your SWAG (Scientific Wild A$$ Guess). To find out which it is, hit the "Read More".
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